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Any Sacrifice Worth it to Win for Hawks' Harvey

Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike

Sacrificing to win. That's all Tyler Harvey and the Illawarra Hawks are about this season and that's why they are having a crack at the NBL championship from second position because a band of superstars have been willing to pull together with one combined goal – to win.

If you look at Harvey, he could be an MVP calibre player in the NBL. After all, that's exactly what he was last season and had he taken more shots, played more minutes and dominated the ball handling more in #NBL22, he very well could have battled Bryce Cotton and Jaylen Adams for the accolade.

You can say the same for the Duop Reath. The same for Justinian Jessup. The same for Antonius Cleveland. Any number of players on this Hawks teams have enough individual talents where if they wanted to be selfish and dominate the ball, they could potentially put up MVP level numbers.

However, they have all put winning first and Harvey is the most glaring example of that. It can't be easy to be the player one season with the ball in his hands the most to accept another ball handler arriving to share the playmaking role, and getting his teammates more involved.

Now there were teething problems, but the Hawks finished the regular season winning 13 of the last 16 to end up with a 19-9 record and qualify for the finals from second position ahead of a semi-final battle with the Sydney Kings starting Friday night.

The one and only focus that Harvey had this season in his second year with the Hawks was to do whatever he could to help the team win. He didn’t care if his numbers and usage went down as long as the team benefited, and it's worked out tremendously for all parties.

"In order to win in this league you have to have a talented team, and we're a very talented team. I knew coming into this year you're going to have to make sacrifices if you want to win, and at the end of the day we play this game to win," Harvey said. 

"Obviously you're going to have to sacrifice something to achieve that goal. I only care about one factor at the end of the day and that's winning, and we had a heck of a year. We had 19 wins and I think it's the most wins this club has had in a long time. 

"My numbers or not, I don’t really look too much into that and I never have. At the end of the day I came here to win a championship and that's been my goal from day one, and since signing back here. 

"I know the other guys had the same mentality and the word that we've used all year, and that Goorj has used, is sacrifice. We've all had to sacrifice somewhat to get this far and it was a bit of an up and down year at times. But we figured it out, we knew we could do that and now we you want to be peaking at the right time. I think we're doing just that."

From the moment Harvey arrived in Wollongong for the start of his first season with the Hawks, he fully embraced everything about the Illawarra community and playing for the club.

That's why it was a no-brainer for him to come back this season and commit for the long-term, but it was winning that was the one and only thing on his mind coming into #NBL22.

He knew it would take some time for he and Xavier Rathan-Mayes to work on sharing that playmaking role, but ultimately it's winning for the fans that come out to support the Hawks that drive on Harvey more than anything.

Now he can't wait to play in front of a packed and loud WIN Entertainment Centre for Game 1 against the Kings on Friday night.

"It's unbelievable when you get the fans in there packing it out. The fans are right on top of you and it gets very loud but there's no doubt in my mind there will be exactly that for this first game," Harvey said. 

"I know the fans are all looking forward to it and I'm not too bad about them showing up because I know that's going to be the case.

"Our focus right now is on this first game and I try to just think about that, but when you start the year you set those goals as a team, and our goal is to win the championship. Now in order to do that, you have to take it one game at a time, which we do well. 

"Credit to Goorj for just always having our mindset focused on this game that we have coming up, but look man, in the back of my mind of course you want to win a championship. That's why I came back to Illawarra to win a championship and it all starts now with this Game 1. With a tough opponent like Sydney we know it ain't going to be easy, but we're looking forward to it."

Harvey is fully aware of the challenge that is ahead of the Hawks if they are to reach the Grand Final and he's happy to embrace the rivalry with the Kings, but really all he and his teammates are focused on is concentrating on the job in front of them and not letting too much outside noise in.

"You play for this part of the year so I know that myself and the team are very excited. We know we have a tough Sydney team ahead of us, but we're looking forward to the challenge and it's not long until we're getting it started here," he said.

"Whenever you have two teams that are so close to each other of course there's going to be that rivalry, but for us we're just looking to improve on what we've been working on this year. 

"Sydney's a great team and we know we're going to have to match them offensively and defensively, but this week we've just focused on what we need to do well and what we need to do to get this give this thing a go, man. 

"I know it's good for the league to have this rivalry obviously and everyone loves that good story of the match up, but we're just excited to get this ball rolling and we know it's a tough challenge ahead."

Harvey might not be asked to guard Sydney's MVP Jaylen Adams too often with that job likely to fall to the Damian Martin Trophy winner Cleveland. 

And Harvey himself might be hounded by Kings stopper Wani Swaka Lo Buluk, but it is quite the salivating thought to think of the two superstar point guards in action over the series even though it's not something Harvey is focused on.

"Look man, Jaylen's an amazing player and well-deserving of the MVP and take nothing from him. He's unbelievable and what they've accomplished this year with that winning streak, unbelievable," Harvey said. 

"But it's a team game and we're focused on what we need to do better to win. We've been trending in the right direction towards the last part of the year, and so have they, so it should make for a fun series and I know both teams are excited. 

"We're just really excited to have our home fans come out and support us in this first game. That's big for the city to have home court and we're just looking forward to playing in front of our fans, and going out there."

When Harvey reflected on his first season of the Hawks which ended with him named to the All-NBL First Team, he never questioned whether or not he should return for a second season.

It was probably the easiest career choice he has ever had to make for a whole host of reasons, including to continue getting to play under coach Goorjian, and now he would love nothing more than to help bring the Hawks their second ever championship in the coming weeks.

"First and foremost, playing under coach Goorj was unbelievable last year and I learned so much from him on and off the court. Just being able to learn from his day in and day has been amazing for me to have that opportunity," Harvey said. 

"That's one of the main reasons why I came back and then there's the city. It's an amazing place and the people are amazing, and I just knew this place could be special. You win some games and the community gets behind you and that's what we're looking to do. 

"For me it was an easy choice to come back to Illawarra when the opportunity presented itself and now we just need to what we have to do in the playoffs, and just have fun out there. Basketball is meant to be fun so we have to remember to do that as well."

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